remnants of a past life (note 4)

purging stuff and emotions ... after hoarding them for more than decade ...

remnants of a past life (note 4)
Photo by Yoav Farhi on Unsplash

Wheeeee! Finally, the job is done.

Finally, finally, I cleared out the Indian clothes — mostly salwar kameezes — that had been lying in storage for more than a decade and that I had long outgrown.

So, let me begin at the beginning! Although I'm not really sure what the beginning really is. All I know for certainty is that, at least since 2014, the year we moved to Canada, I've not had much opportunity to wear traditional Indian clothes.

For a few years preceding that, when we were in Singapore, I did enjoy wearing my dressy salwar kameezes quite often. I could wear them to work. I'd wear them on our Sunday evening temple visits.

But since we moved to Canada, I've had little use for them. The last I wore them was perhaps during a Diwali party in 2014. I even lent one of my suits to a classmate.

After that we went to Australia for a bit, and we put all those clothes and many other things in a storage unit here, paying some 100 bucks a month for the next couple of years to store stuff we didn't have any use for. The mind is truly boggled!

When we moved to Burlington, we had space in the basement, so we didn't need to keep paying for a storage unit to house our stuff. We brought all the boxes and dumped them in the basement instead. Where it has all stayed for the last six years.

Occasionally, we'd rummage through the boxes. Usually searching for traditional wear on the occasion of Diwali. And coming away disappointed, because they had grown too tight.

Yet, I kept them mainly because I didn't know where to dispose off Indian clothes. I didn't want to put them in a donation box, because if there's no market for it, the thrift store is likely to dump all these clothes in the landfill anyway.

I've often dreamt of putting them all in one suitcase and hauling them to India to dump them at my parents' place and ask them to pass them on there.

I also looked up how much it would cost me to ship a carton full of clothes to India. Canada Post gave me a quote of $500! Even the clothes themselves are not worth that much.

In my latest newfound obsession with decluttering, I looked up reddit forums to see where people in GTA (Greater Toronto Area) took to donating their Indian wear.

And I came across Talize, a thrift store. Both their Mississauga and Brampton locations confirmed over phone that they accept donations of traditional wear.

Buoyed by this find, I set about tackling the more difficult part of the decluttering. Readying the clothes I needed to pass on.

I approached this task on Tuesday, high on the joy of having passed on D's stroller and high chair on Monday.

I had anticipated it to be a bit of an emotional journey, and that helped me in a way. So many feelings came up.

As I pulled out each suit, I remembered the joy of going shopping with Mom, back in Pune mostly, and buying several unstitched sets of cloth. Then we'd go to a tailor, who'd measure me, ask me to choose a neck pattern, and promise to deliver the stitched suits within two weeks or so.

Appa would happily stand outside the store on these occasions, waiting patiently for Amma and me to finish our purchases. He'd then come in to whip out his credit card or wallet to pay for our indulgence. 😊

It was always a joy wearing new clothes. This is one thing I've missed from India. Access to so many varieties and colours of clothes. I've struggled to find good quality, colourful and reasonably priced clothes outside of India.

Laura is the only place I go to now to buy tops here in Canada. It has lots of colours and designs.

Feeling the soft fabrics in my hands, cottons and silks, admiring the intricate embroidery, brought on a strong feeling of nostalgia.

Because, alongside all those feelings of joy, I also remembered how rural I used to feel in my lovely salwar kameezes when I was in the company of anyone who was wearing jeans and tops.

I don't know why I used to feel that way, but the shame and embarrassment I felt at loving something I felt was so rural, so traditional, was pretty intense.

Funny really. A friend of mine once decided that she wouldn't have babies simply because it was expected of her to have one after marriage. I said, "Isn't that also a way of succumbing to stereotypes?"

Reckon that's how it was for me. I loved Indian suits yet I also rebelled against them because they were upheld as symbols of modesty and propriety.

I also added to the donation set three sarees, all of which were made of this very fine, translucent material — chiffon, I think — which just doesn't wear well on me.

Two were from KrA's side of the family, gifted to me on my wedding and on a later occasion, so I had been reluctant to pass them on. But seeing as they'd never get worn lying in a box in the basement, I cleared them out too.

I was a little nervous about driving up to Mississauga all by myself on the highway. I had mistakenly assumed this would be the first time I'd drive by myself on the highway, without either KrA or D for company. I was wrong.

My first solo highway drive was to Hamilton, many years ago, in a pre-pandemic world, when I had gone in search of a Buddhist meditation centre there.

Last summer, D attended two weeks of summer camp in Hamilton, and that saw me driving to and fro for drop-offs and pick-ups.

Yet, I was very unsettled since last evening. Naturally, I didn't get to the writing desk this morning. As soon as the morning traffic had cleared, I made my way to Talize Mississauga, allowing Spotify to play a medley of songs for me to listen to on the way.

Once there, I simply placed the four bags of Indian clothes into the donation box outside the store. Down they went into the bin, ready to be taken out and put up on display in the store, where hopefully someone would like to buy and use them as fondly as I did.

I went into the store to see what it was like. It was insanely huge! Impossibly high ceilings made the area look even more spacious.

Countless clothes were very neatly organized on rails. There must have been more than a couple of hundred such rails of clothes throughout the store. They also had purses and handbags, shoes, scarves, and whatnot.

I located the rails of Indian clothes and was very happy to see it was well-stocked. A kurta was selling for $9.99.

Deed done, I got back into the car and came straight back home and enjoyed a lavish lunch of rice and rajma that KrA had cooked in the morning. Then came up here to record this.

I still have to discard blouses of sarees that no longer fit me. I have many cherished sarees but I've sadly outgrown most of the blouses. Even unravelling the outer rows of stitches hasn't loosened them enough to fit me.

But I was too tired this morning to try them on and see which ones fit and which don't. I probably have less than 10 blouses, so that can be a task for another day.

Who knows? Someday, when I go to India I could take these sarees along and buy well-fitting blouses for me. Or perhaps I'd feel like indulging in shopping with Amma for old times' sake, buy fabrics for salwar suits, and get them stitched.

The joy is not in those clothes I passed on today.

The joy is not even in the memories they evoked.

The joy is in my having experienced those beautiful moments of connection with my parents and myself back then.

The joy is in this very moment of life that I am experiencing right now. The only moment that makes up reality for that instant, which is how long it lasts!